A few years ago, my parents’ church was collecting Campbell’s Soup labels for a school that was saving them up to get a van. I hate to throw away anything that somebody can use, so I started saving my family’s labels, but the collection jar was gone by the time I actually remembered to take the labels along on a visit to the church. Not wanting to waste the labels, I posted them on eBay for a penny – I figured someone could use them – and was surprised when they sold for more than four dollars.
Soon thereafter, I got into a discussion with some friends about the Campbell’s Labels for Education and General Mills’ Box Tops for Education programs. One friend, an accountant, commented that the labor costs of having school personnel count and process the labels or box tops so that they’re in the form in which the companies want them to be submitted can easily be higher than the cost of actually buying whatever it is the school was saving for (or the equivalent cash earned). It was a thought I hadn’t considered.
Educational incentive programs are, of course, promotions companies use to get you to buy their products. The amount of time people spend clipping and saving the labels/box tops isn’t particularly important to them. After all, unredeemed labels/box tops mean more money in the company’s coffers. If the companies’ motives for these programs were purely philanthropic, they could choose to give whether or not consumers bought anything. (For that matter, parents could also donate time or money to a school without buying any products.)
A school’s actual earnings from educational incentive programs are not the only benefits of such programs, however. Students who save box tops learn how small amounts can add up. They see the value of saving and also develop a sense of school spirit by working together toward a goal. Older students and parents can choose to volunteer time counting box tops so that the school district doesn’t have to pay staff to do it, and volunteering benefits both the community and the volunteers (who can feel that they’ve done a good thing by helping someone else). Plus, knowing that the expected company donation was figured into the retail cost of the soup or cereal or other food, it seems a shame to waste an easy opportunity to benefit a school.
Are the benefits of educational incentive programs worth the time it takes to tear off, tally, and bundle box tops and labels (or the money you spend to buy them)? Only you – and your school – can decide.
Image courtesy of raisinsawdust